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Do Chickens Attract Rats?

Very few things will illicit a scream (from even the bravest of us) like seeing a rat. There is just something about those vermin that really smacks our internal ‘icky’ button.

With this fact so well established, one can understand the very real concern as to whether or not chickens attract rats.

Fortunately, they do not.

Chickens do NOT attract rats, but some of the things found in a chickens’ environment do. And if not properly addressed, these unwanted rodents will visit… set up a nest … and multiply!

That is something that must absolutely be avoided!

Not only is a multitude of rats horrifying to think about, but they can be a very real health risk to you and your flock.

Rats And Chicken Feed

It has always amazed me the amount of critters I find eating my chicken feed.

Just last summer, I found myself looking at the back door one evening, to see a hen eating on one side of the feeder while a wild bunny ate from the other.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about living in harmony with the natural world, but I am simply to cheap to buy those ‘garden monsters’ lunch!

And rats score even lower on my ‘like-a-ability’ scale.

Rats, or more formally known as ‘rattus’ are omnivores, meaning they will eat both plant and animal matter. Consequently, a high quality chicken feed is not only edible for them, but extraordinarily nourishing.

This is where a chickens’ messy feeding habits really work against you.

Chickens will peck at their food, driving their beak into the feed and spraying a little bit here and there with every single peck. This means that there is always plenty of feed on the ground, all around the feeder right where a patient rat can get at. And given the rats’ small size, they don’t need a lot of it to really benefit.

#Helpful Hint #

If you do see signs of a rodent around the feeder, promptly clean up any feed laying around on the ground and if you can, spray the area with water. Chicken feed absorbs water very quickly and will dissolve, making it difficult for the unwanted vermin to ‘grab-and-go’.

Storing Chicken Feed

The chicken feed I use comes in ‘easy-to-chew-through’ bags. That’s not a complaint, just an honest observation.

If you do not take steps to protect your chicken feed, rats will get into it.

The most common way to safeguard against rats (and a whole host of other feed thieves) is by storing it in a metal trash can.

If a metal can isn’t available, then you can opt for a plastic one, but make sure to get one that is really thick. Rodents can chew through plastic, but heavy duty plastic will make them really work for it.

For an in-depth look at this, check out, “How To Store Chicken Feed

Rats And Bedding

One of the ironies about raising chickens is that the ideal environment for raising chicks is the same ideal environment for a rat to nest in. Any kind of bedding material kept in a dry and safe place is absolute prime real estate for rodents.

Smaller rats won’t fair very well should they decide to take up residence anywhere within an adult chicken’s ability to get to. I’ve seen many nests gleefully dug up and its’ occupants removed by a very happy chicken.

But bigger rats can be aggressive. Unless you have a rooster who is completely motivated on removing the challenge to his flock, bigger rats will have to be handled by you.

# Helpful Hint#

If you notice your flock avoiding a certain area of the yard, or simply refusing to return to the coop at night, then an immediate investigation is warranted. Generally, there is a very real reason for their behavior.

Rats And Scraps

It is not uncommon for chicken owners to trade the expired produce in the fridge for fresh eggs. This saves a little on the cost of feeding chickens and the flock tends to look at this as a treat.

For those of us who do this, we all are familiar with the scene of chickens chasing each other around the yard trying to steal the good stuff from each other.

While this is enjoyable to watch, it does have the unfortunate result of leaving scraps of food all over the yard… for someone else to find.

Generally, if the food scraps are low in volume and repetition, then this isn’t a problem. But larger quantities, such as a compost heap or, in our case, deep mulch potato gardening, can absolutely entice rats to the area.

Rats And Eggs

As mentioned above, rats are omnivores. So chances are, if you can eat it, then so can they. This includes eggs.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to deal with rats trying to eat eggs.

  • Raised nesting-boxes – Putting a nesting box up and out of the way is one simple way to make life difficult for a rodent. This isn’t to say that rats can’t climb walls, but eggs on ground level are just begging to be eaten.
  • Metal/Plastic nesting-boxes – While lifting a nesting-box up of the ground is helpful, a nesting box that doesn’t have a grip-able surface is even better. Rats use their claws to help with climbing. But if their claws can’t get a good grip, then access to the eggs becomes difficult.
  • Clean nesting-boxes – One of the biggest ways to advertise to pests is by not cleaning up after a broken egg. Hens are not machines and occasionally they will lay a egg with a thin shell. When one of these shells break, the contents ooze everywhere. If you do not clean this up, mother nature will send someone who will.

Rats And Chicks

Rats can be very capable hunters. This is fine with the smaller rats that focus on bugs, but as the rats get bigger, so does their menu.

A large rat will have no problem killing and consuming a baby chick.

If there is a mother hen onsite, she will most likely act to protect her chicks. However, if you are raising chicks without the benefit of a 24/7 guardian, then it is up to you to see that the chicks are safe.

Frankly speaking, this can be a very difficult task if the rodents have already figured out that there is easy food for the taking.

The best way to ensure your chicks safety is to do your very best not to invite rats in the first place.

Rats And Adult Chickens

Even in the worst of conditions, a single rat is going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to a healthy adult chicken. A chicken can strike with incredible speed. Factor into this a weight advantage and the ability to fly and escape, then rats should not be a significant threat to a chicken.

However, this changes at night.

Chickens have very poor night vision and because of this, they generally don’t move one bedded down for the night.

It is during this time that rats can act with relative impunity, targeting either the toes of the chicken or the fleshy combs and wattles.

This isn’t always fatal, but it is most certainly painful; opening up the opportunity for infection.

Because of this (and weasels) we build our coops with .5 inch metal mesh. Sold as ‘hardware cloth,’ this stainless steel wiring proves an impenetrable barrier for critters looking to chew their way in.

Once You’ve Seen Signs Of A Rat

There is a plethora of advice (and gadgets) on how to deal with rats once they decided to take up residence with your chickens.

Personally, I can not advise you one way or another regarding which gadget or procedure is best suited for your situation. But I can say this.

The rats are there for the food.

If you eliminate their food supply, they will leave on their own.

This doesn’t mean that a hungry rat won’t try something new. But it has been our experience that once the easy food is no longer available, the signs of their presence decreases dramatically.